2015, A New Year for Aid and Attendance benefits

Published on January 2, 2013 by

2015 Aid and Attendance amounts

  • Veteran $1,788
  • Surviving Spouse $1,149
  • Veteran and Spouse $2,120
  • Veterans Spouse $1,403
  • Married, both Veterans $2,764

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Insurance companies using Aid and Attendance as bait, then switch to selling insurance products

Published on May 25, 2012 by

I am seeing more and more insurance companies using Aid and Attendance as a tool to move people’s assets for commissions.  What is even more surprising are many assisted living communities are allowing insurance companies to come into their facilities, use Aid and Attendance as bait and then switch to selling insurance products such as annuities etc.  These insurance companies say they will do “Aid and Attendance for free”; first of all, nobody works for free, come on; there is always a gimmick to sell you something. They don’t have a clue how to even fill out an Aid and Attendance application; they outsource the paperwork to an out of state company who push the paperwork through to the VA.    “Free”? You definitely get what you pay for.  I seriously wonder if these insurance companies stay with and manage Aid and Attendance until their client passes away. Will they do the annual reviews or manage the confusing letters that their clients receive from the VA? What happens when a client moves from assisted living to live with a family member?    Who manages this at the risk of having to pay the pension back to the VA?  Again, I highly doubt an insurance company will show any interest in these sorts of situations other than up selling more insurance products as the years go by. I go to many senior functions and see insurance salesman there which makes me very uncomfortable.  I know I would not want insurance salesman hanging out at my parents assisted living trying to sale them an insurance product, especially using the military pension, Aid and Attendance as bait to do so.

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Taking the keys: When seniors need to stop driving

Published on April 23, 2012 by

By Lois M. Collins ,DeseretNews

Published: Sunday,April 22 20124:36 p.m.MDT

As they got old, Bill and Betty Lamb learned to make compromises so they could, for a time, continue on as if advancing age had no effect. He still drove on their beloved afternoon rambles, but he was no longer the only pilot, determinedly in charge and certain of his way. His wife kept track of where they were, telling him to turn here or there.

He was a “man you could have dropped from a helicopter anywhere and he’d have found his way home,” his daughter, Sandra Lamb, says. Except he was getting lost in familiar places near hisDenverhome. And when it got bad enough, she could no longer avoid the topic she’d long dreaded: It was time, she told her 82-year-old dad, to give up his car keys. It wasn’t safe for him or for others on the road.

“It was painful to see his reaction. I felt so sorry for him.” And for herself, too. He didn’t speak to her for almost two years. One day, living inMichigan, she got a panicked call from her mom. He’d found a spare set of keys, she said, and was loading the car with nonsensical items, getting ready to “drive home.”

She told her to call the police. Faced with their authority, he turned the keys over without a battle. He was done with driving, though he continued to fume.

Driving may represent identity, independence and more to seniors. Giving up driving is an unwelcome rite of passage among the elderly, complicated by the fact that people age out of safe driving unpredictably. Some at 85 are well enough to continue without much problem, though they may prefer to stay in familiar territory or on slower streets. But dementia, macular degeneration and other maladies common in old age can make driving a very hazardous pursuit for others, at even younger ages.

It’s a potentially deadly dilemma for families. Stacey Hilton of Senior Helpers, an in-home senior care company, does a sobering recap: By 2030, 70 million-plus Americans will be at least 65, and more than 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive. Some will no longer be capable of doing so safely. She points to four accidents in March alone. InMassachusetts, an 89-year-old man who hadn’t renewed his license for 25 years is charged after killing a pedestrian. InCalifornia, a woman, 81, accidentally hits the gas and kills another driver and a pedestrian. Elsewhere in the state, a man, 85, hits a tree and dies. InOhio, a woman, 69, goes the wrong way on the freeway and kills three college students and herself, and injures others.

Time to talk

But the “give me the keys” talk requires care, say both experts and adult children who’ve done it. It’s a conversation so fraught with land mines that AARP and theHartfordand MIT AgeLab created a free online course explaining the emotional connections to driving and offering suggestions. It’s called “We Need to Talk.”

Hartford’s survey notes that adults in their 40s are the most apt to be concerned about an older family member’s ability to drive, but a third of those who are worried have not yet broached the subject with the older driver. They say they’re worried the driver will react badly, they don’t know what to say and they haven’t figured out transportation alternatives.

But before you rush to take away the keys simply because someone’s old, consider this tale from Bonnie Russell ofAsheville,N.C.”My father is 89. Still driving. In fact, two years ago his defensive driving skills and fast reflexes (he’s an ex-pilot) saved us both from a bad accident after a woman cut in front of us on the freeway and then slammed on her brakes.” But she’s seen the other side, too. When she worked for a police department, she says, people occasionally asked them to take away their parents’ car keys. “The least painful way is to work out a deal with DMV to send out a notice for a driver’s license re-test — which they will fail. Some states will do so immediately. Others wait until the renewal date.”

On the AARP website, warning signs of trouble include being easily distracted while driving, hitting curbs, trouble merging, poor judgment making left turns and failure to follow traffic signs and signals. You look for patterns, not a single incident. Others add to the list. Being overly cautious or slow is dangerous. Medications can impair ability. Senior Helpers, which among other services offers drivers for hire, notes that sleep issues, common to the elderly, impair driving and slow reflexes. Jody Gastfriend, vice president at Care.com, says concerned kin should check recent driving records that, along with dings and dents, can warn that ability is fading.

A rough conversation

Marion Somers, known as eldercare adviser “Dr. Marion,” remembers her conversation with her own dad as the worst of her life. She lived inNew York, he was inFlorida, but she was the family’s “designated doer of taking away the keys.” She rode with him to see how bad his driving really was. It was awful. His skill had “diminished at an alarming rate.” She said she was concerned by what she’d seen, but mostly she was worried for him. “Could you live with hitting a child?” she asked. She put the focus on hurting someone else so he wouldn’t dig in his heels and shoo her away.

They made a list of the things he had to drive to do. Then they tackled them. It was not one conversation, but a series. She looked into public transportation options and found they’d take him half the places he needed to go. So they practiced getting there by bus to build up his confidence. They sold his car and put the money into a transportation account with which she paid his taxi bill each month. When it ran out, she paid it. “To not have to run down toFloridafor some emergency caused by his driving was worth it to me,” she says. And they recruited friends for activities, like taking him to religious services.

Just saying that’s it, though, is not enough. Somers says to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles and the car insurance company, then turn in the license plates. Make sure the eyeglass prescription is right, that hearing is appropriate, as well. Sometimes, adjusting one of those solves the driving problem for a while. Her dad got a three-wheeled cycle so he could “toot around the community and be outdoors and independent.” She found a grocer who delivered when he couldn’t get out.

If you don’t live nearby, she says, check with neighbors. They know and they’re concerned. When you talk on the phone, really talk. And really listen. Most elderly learn to fake being fine because they fear losing independence. The fa?de is hard to maintain. “Mental deterioration on any level shows up within 20 minutes.”

“It is crucial to have your parents look at transportation alternatives well before giving up the car keys,” says John Z. Wetmore, ofBethesda,Md., producer of the cable TV series “Perils for Pedestrians.” “Do your parents know where the local bus routes go? Have they ever used the bus? Simple things like not knowing what the fare is, or how transfers work, can be embarrassing to a grown adult. It is easier to give up driving if they are already making occasional use of the alternatives while they are still driving.”

eHow.com recommends having a parent take a driver’s test — something most states don’t require. The results can make it easier for a parent with diminished capacity to accept that driving’s no longer a good option.

No time to waste

Eric Ward himself recognized as his 85th birthday approached that driving wasn’t safe and offered his daughter, Pat Hoyrup, his prized possession, a Lincoln Continental. She jumped on the plane from her Coupeville,Wash., home. “I didn’t give him time to change his mind.” She’d been wondering how to approach the topic.

Daniel Gray’s conversation with his mom took place when he picked her up after she’d been pulled over for hitting some mailboxes. She blamed medications but recognized “her driving days were over,” he says. “The following years were challenging, and I spent a significant amount of time ferrying Mom about, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I test drive cars and have great memories of helping Mom climb in and out of a wide range of vehicles in our travels, from a Camaro SS to a Mini Cooper convertible. Cadillacs to Prius, we had some great conversations.”

To do it right, “you can’t simply take away the keys,” says Gray, of Belle Mead, N.J. “They have to be hung up voluntarily, while there’s still some quality time left.”

After Ward gave his daughter his car, he downsized his world to the pieces he could reach on bike until little strokes took those wheels away, as well. Then he walked to the store and through his Midvale,Utah, neighborhood. Friends and relatives were happy to help him get where he needed to go.

He died years ago, but Hoyrup thinks about the challenge of age and driving still. She’s 72, living on an island that requires a ferry ride. Lately, she finds herself asking a friend to drive sometimes and she no longer drives in the dark. “At some point in time, we will need to move to a place where we’re close to stores; right now we live on five acres.”

Diane Dennis’ dad was sidelined by a massive stroke as he was driving. He managed to reach a gas station where someone called 911. Dennis, a nurse inPortland,Ore., was his designated spokesperson for medical issues. After the hospital, he was sent to a skilled nursing facility. He wanted to be home, wanted his life the way it had been. Dennis worked with the doctor and others to “leave him there long enough to convince him he needed help at home and could not drive any more.”

He never forgave her for “interfering with his independence.” They were estranged and she kept track of him only through other family members for the rest of his life.

“I chose to make the doctor’s office the determining factor for removing my dad’s driving privileges,” says Pamela Hoffine ofSweet Home,Ore.”It just made it easier to appease my dad because the doctor, of course, is the expert and the ultimate professional in determining the safety and hazard contingencies linked with my father’s health.”

When Holly Deitz took her dad’s car keys away, she also bought an umbrella insurance policy “on the off chance he gets his hands on my mom’s keys. My very wise accountant clued me in on this very necessary but completely underutilized insurance product whereby if my father does get behind the wheel and does something horrible, there will be enough “easy money” for an attorney to get his hands on. That way the chance of my parents losing everything is much less,” she says.

Years after Bill Lamb died, Betty Lamb was forced to stop driving by macular degeneration. This time, daughter Sandra didn’t confront it directly; she let the doctor do it. It was less stressful for the family when he played the heavy, she says, noting that her cousin just disabled her elderly mom’s car and then put off the repair until being carless became the norm.

“My advice,” says Sandra Lamb, “is if you don’t have to be confrontational, it’s better. Losing the things you felt you had the skill to do and you have a long track record of doing — well, giving up those things is not easy at all.” She arranged lots of rides for her mom. “Her real fear was being isolated. Giving up driving, which gave her a huge amount of independence, was hard.” The sting was smaller when she saw she could still go and do and enjoy.

Lundy Wilder’s dad was a doctor who had saved well for retirement. When it because obvious he and his wife shouldn’t be driving, their four kids formed a united front to stress that if something bad happened while driving, they could lose all their savings to a lawsuit. Then they set up an account with an agency that sent a driver out every day. “Daddy complained, as did Momma, but we stuck to our guns,” says Wilder, ofGulf Shores,Ala.The solid front helped. They managed that by collaborating by phone, city to city. Her folks weren’t pleased, but they “went along with the program.”

Ultimately, they became close to the driver, who became their hired caregiver in their final months.

Tips on taking the keys

Have a checkup to see if vision, hearing or a medication accounts for the diminished driving skill. Those may be reversible.

AAAand AARP offer classes for mature drivers to help retrain them to be safe drivers. The National Safety Council offers a safe driving test.

Talk about the possibility they could hurt someone else. Many older adults are more horrified at the thought of hurting someone than they are at the loss of independence.

Suggest taking the driver’s test to see if current skills are adequate.

Encourage a parent to talk to his or her physician, other relatives and trusted friends. If that doesn’t do it and you’re worried, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. The rules vary, but in some cases a license can be revoked, at least temporarily. Don’t forget to replace it with a state identification card.

As a last resort, remove access to the car. That’s tougher to do. But sometimes it works.

Make sure they use alternative forms of transportation occasionally before they have to give up the keys, so they’re not intimidated or uncomfortable. Point out that it doesn’t mean you can’t stay in your home as long as there are other transportation choices available. It also helps to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks and with stores and amenities close by.

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VA Aid and Attendance pension

Published on April 3, 2012 by

The Aid and Attendance pension was set up for war time Veterans, their spouses and surviving spouses who are 65 and older and at the point in their lives when they are in need of care.  I have seen these great people go from a limited income to an income worthy of allowing them to receive the care they so rightfully deserve either in their homes or in assisted living.

 

We have literally spoken to thousands of families, either the Veteran or their family, usually their children, about the Aid and Attendance pension.  The surprising coincidence between these conversations is that they have never heard about the Aid and Attendance pension.  They will tell me that mom and dad has been going to the VA for years and nothing was ever said to him or her about this.

 

We have been privileged to travel all over theUnited Statessharing the good word about Aid and Attendance.  Again, these great people have never heard about Aid and Attendance.  This makes them a little skeptical as they feel this is something the VA should have told them about.  As a reminder, the VA is under NO obligation to share this.

 

Aid and Attendance is a TAX FREE pension directly deposited into your bank account.  These monies can be used for whatever needs you have, but typically are used to pay for care.  Aid and Attendance does not affect your Social Security.  The only thing it affects is that is will give you additional TAX FREE income each month.

 

Aid and Attendance has been a wonderful blessing to our Veterans and their spouses.  Additionally, this alleviates a lot of stress that families are feeling financially and emotionally as the weight of caring for their loved ones is extremely lightened.  In our experience we are typically seeing that the burden of care falls on the elder female sibling in the family and that many other siblings will not be involved which is very unfortunate.

 

As I speak with families, we want to get enough information over the phone to give us a good feel for each situation.  Every family situation is different, so we try and get enough brief information up front to see if we need to proceed with any other information needed.  We need to know war time status, need for care, expense for care, income and assets.  This will give us a good idea if we need to go further with additional information to support the process.

 

Senior Care Associates has been consulting with families about Aid and Attendance for 5 years.  We will only send in the application if we feel 100% confident that you will receive the Aid and Attendance pension.  If we do not feel confident and that the timing is wrong or for whatever reason we will not file.  Our staff has all worked in the senior field from Nursing Home Administrator, Assisted Living, Home Health and Hospice, Home Personal Care and Care Consulting.  Our staff is also supported by an Elder Law Attorney who is accredited through the VA and a Planner who deals with end of life financial decisions.

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A tribute to my dad “Thomas Marvin Autrey” aboard the Navy Destroyer USS McKean

Published on March 30, 2012 by

RANCHER (USS McKean)  SINKS RUSSIAN SUB IN 1950

  This one is reported in the book “Blind Mans Bluff – The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage” by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew; “U.S. intelligence officials have long believed that a U.S. surface ship sank a Soviet sub that came close to an aircraft carrier attack force in 1950, early in the Korean War, according to two former intelligence officers. “The United States was so concerned that the Soviet Navy would try to help the North Koreans that surface ships were under orders to protect U.S. warships by depth charging any possible hostile submarines, and in this case, one force depth charged a suspected Soviet sub and then saw no signs that it had survived.”

 

McKean left Sasebo, Japan’s submarine nets only to find a surprise waiting for them, 3 Russian submarines waiting for bigger fish to fry. McKean was first to catch the waiting Russians on sonar, soon the Task force commander ordered USS McKean and USS Frank Knox to protect the Task Force. This story remained secret for 48 years, how the McKean helped sink a Russian submarine and recover top secret gear.

My dads account:

On our way out of Sasebo Harbor, Sonar picked up what appeared to be a Submarine.  Just outside the Harbor.  We were ordered to Depth Charge it.  There were several Destroyers with us and we all were throwing Depth Charges.  During the process a look-out on the bridge spotted a torpedo coming our way.  It passed a few feet in front of our bow, a very narrow miss.  Another time my Guardian Angel was there for me.  At that time my battle station was in that section of the ship.  No one was able to determine if the sub was sunk or not.  We returned to Port and picked up a double load of Depth Charges and dropped half of them on the submarine on the way out.  The Korean’s did not have any submarines so it was assumed that it was either Russian or possibly Chinese.  I don’t know if they ever discovered that information or not.

 

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Parenting the parent

Published on March 26, 2012 by

My dad is a Veteran of the Korean Conflict.  He served on the USS McKean.  He turned 84 this year.  He is still able to drive and do things around the house.  My mom currently had a knee replacement and spent a couple of weeks in rehab.  She recently fell and broke her hip, putting her in the hospital for hip surgery and a few week rehab stay.  She’s back at home getting her feet under her so she can get back to her health.

 

My parents are well aware of the VA Aid and Attendance pension.  Dad tells me he should be able to qualify.  I tell him he will at some point in the future when his level of care increases.  I tell my mom the same thing.  When you’re not able to drive and do some things for yourselves around the house is when we will start look at getting you the Aid and Attendance pension.

 

When exactly will my parents be eligible for this pension?  I speak with people everyday about this exact topic.  They tell me their stories about their loved ones and the situations they are in.  It can be a difficult time for most families as they struggle with parenting the parent.  Our parents remember when they parented us. For us, their children to parent them, does not always go over very well.  If you saw the movie Grand Torino with Clint Eastwood, when his children came over to wish him a Happy Birthday with cake and showed him a few assisted living brochures, this did not go over very well. I can still remember the look on Clint Eastwoods face and how his children felt as they were kicked out of his house.

 

The main focus for us as children is to make sure we are well informed of what is out there for our parents and being proactive with this ahead of time.  Everything stems from money.  Will our parents have enough money to take care of them in the future?  Avoiding this will just make for a lot of anxiety and stress in our lives when the time comes to make fast and hard decisions relating to our parents care.

 

Senior Care Associates will answer these questions and give you some very good sound advice that will take the edge off.  Give us a call!

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Why Doesn’t the VA tell Veterans about Their Benefits?

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Another great article I thought should be posted, happy reading!

Millions of veterans lose out on billions in benefits because the VA doesn’t tell them they qualify. Why? – Money! – And, because the VA is not required to tell anyone about any benefits.

Now, we go back to the first headline. Why are there millions of veterans and widows nationwide who are not getting VA benefits? The simple answer is because they don’t know they are qualified. The real answer is much more complex. The VA is NOT required to tell veterans, dependents or widows that they qualify for benefits. As strange as this may seem, the VA is under no obligation to inform anyone of any benefits. This is also true for veterans who are already enrolled in the VA system. Millions of veterans in the VA system are only receiving some of their benefits.

Most veterans do not know that if they have at least a 10 per cent service-connected disability they can get free eyeglasses, hearing aids and mobility devices such as canes and walkers. Other little-known benefits go begging as well. Very few veterans know that they can get a clothing allowance (now over $600 a year) if they wear a prosthetic device that damages clothing or use topical medications for skin ailments. I found myself in this situation a few years ago. After almost 20 years in the VA system I discovered that they would pay for my eyeglasses. No one had told me this. I discovered it by reading endless pages of veterans’ benefits information on line. I estimate I spent over $5,000 for eyeglasses that could have been provided by the VA.

Why doesn’t the VA inform veterans of their benefits? The VA’s answer is simply because it is not a requirement. Veterans’ groups are more critical and claim it’s all about money. And, there is evidence to support this view. Up until about three years ago the VA had outreach programs designed to find and inform veterans of their benefits. These programs were cancelled by former VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi, a Republican political appointee. The reason? The programs were “too successful” and it was felt the VA budget couldn’t handle any more veterans in the system. Many veterans’ organizations used to hold “veterans’ benefits fairs” at VA facilities. The VA no longer allows these events (Principi, again) and the organizations had to move them to private
property where the likelihood of meeting veterans was much lower.

Another valid criticism of the VA’s “non-information” policy is that poor veterans suffer the most. These veterans are least likely to have contacts in the veterans’ community to help them. And, they are not likely to have the resources, such as Internet access, to dig out the information on their own. There has been legislation floating around Congress for years that would require to VA to inform all veterans of all available benefits. That legislation gets bounced from committee to subcommittee to hearings with no real action. Republican legislators have fought it at every turn. So we find ourselves in the unique situation of having the state informing veterans of federal benefits. Look for these programs to grow, not only in Washington, but in other states as well. The irony here is that as states look to save money, veterans will be the winners.

The real answer to the problem lies in the legislation to require the VA to inform all veterans of all their benefits.

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Sack Lunches

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I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight.  ‘I’m glad I have a good book to read.  Perhaps I will get a short nap,’ I thought. 

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.
‘Where are you headed?’ I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. ‘Petawawa.  We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time…

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. ‘No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base.’  His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. ‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers.’ She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.’

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best – beef or chicken?’ ‘Chicken,’ I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.

‘This is your thanks.’

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. ‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’ Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand.

With a booming voice he said, ‘I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’ I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane.

Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word.  Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. ‘It will take you some time to reach the base.

It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.’

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little…

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’ 

 

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Long Term Health Care

Published on March 23, 2012 by


No one plans to fail, but by failing to plan you may end-up leaving little if nothing to your spouse and, eventually, your family.

Ways most people know how to pay for long term care

  • Private-pay by using existing assets and income

  • Private-pay with help from LTC insurance benefits

  • Private-pay with help from family members

  • Private-pay with help of the VA Aid and Attendance benefit

  • Spend-down your assets, then qualify for Medicaid 

OR…

  • You can do Financial Health Care Planning with Senior Care Associates

Did you know that with proper planning it is possible to receive government benefits and pensions that cover long term care without spending every last cent you have?

By default, a vast majority of seniors end up on Medicaid, but only because they failed to plan and exhausted all of their personal assets.

Our goal is to help seniors understand and protect their income and assets so they avoid ending-up in the same boat – a sinking financial ship!

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10 Most Common Healthcare Mistakes Made by Seniors

Published on March 13, 2012 by

While seniors are living longer, there are still serious health issues, ranging from arthritis and vision problems to hearing loss and forgetfulness. In an effort to help seniors better deal with their health problems, the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) has identified the 10 most common mistakes seniors make in caring for their health.

“Seniors are enjoying themselves and remaining active much later in life,” said Gloria Mayer, R.N., Ed.D., president and chief executive officer of the La Habra, Calif.-based IHA. “At the same time, they must take charge of their healthcare. By identifying the most common errors they make when caring for their health, we hope to enhance physician/patient communications, as well as help seniors better understand how the healthcare system works and what they can do for themselves to stay healthy.”

The 10 most common mistakes identified are as follows:

1. Driving when it’s no longer safe

Seniors often associate mobility in a car with their independence, but knowing when it is time to stop driving is important for the safety of everyone on the road. Decisions about when to stop driving should be made together with a family physician because chronological age alone does not determine someone’s fitness to drive.

2. Fighting the aging process and its appearance

Refusing to wear a hearing aid, eyeglasses or dentures, reluctant to ask for help, or to use walking aids are all examples of this type of denial. This behavior may prevent the senior from obtaining helpful assistance with some of the problems of aging.

3. Reluctance to discuss intimate health problems with the doctor or health care provider

Seniors may not want to bring up sexual or urinary difficulties. Sometimes problems that the senior thinks are trivial, such as stomach upsets, constipation, or jaw pain, may require further evaluation.

4. Not understanding what the doctor told them about their health problem or medical treatment plan

“I could not understand the doctor,” or “He told me what to do, but you know me, I can’t remember what he said” are typical complaints. Reluctance to ask the doctor to repeat information or to admit that they do not understand what is being said can result in serious health consequences.

5. Disregarding the serious potential for a fall

Falls result in fractures and painful injuries which sometimes take months to heal. To help guard against falling, seniors should remove scatter rugs from the home and have adequate lighting in the home and work areas. They should wear sturdy and well-fitting shoes. Seniors should watch for slopes and cracks in sidewalks. Participating in exercise programs to improve muscle tone and strength is also helpful.

6. Failure to have a system or a plan for managing medicines

Missed medication doses can result in inadequate treatment of a medical condition. By using daily schedules, pill box reminders or check off records, seniors can avoid missing medication doses. Because health care providers need to know all of the medicines that a senior is taking, seniors should maintain a complete list of all their prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including dose and the reason that the medicine is being taken.

7. Not having a single primary care physician who looks at the overall medical plan for treatment

Health problems may be overlooked when a senior goes to several different doctors or treatment programs, and multiple treatment regimens may cause adverse responses. The patient may be over or under treated if a single physician is not evaluating the full medical treatment program.

8. Not seeking medical attention when early possible warning signs occur

Reasons for such inaction and denial may include lack of money or reduced self worth due to age. “I am so old it doesn’t matter anymore.” Of course, such treatment delays can result in a more advanced stage of illness and a poorer prognosis.

9. Failure to participate in prevention programs

Flu and pneumonia shots and routine breast and prostate exams are examples of readily available preventive health measures that seniors should utilize to remain healthy.

10. Not asking loved ones for help

Many seniors are simply too stubborn to ask for help, whether due to an understandable need for independence or because of early signs of dementia. It’s important that elderly people alert family members or other loved ones to any signs of ill health or unusual feelings so that they can be assessed before the problem advances.

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